HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (KDVR) – The staff at Windcrest Senior Living center opted for three wax numbers instead of 105 candles. They figured they’d be easier for Paul Phillips to blow out.

Staff members, family and friends threw a birthday party for the World War II veteran Friday to mark a milestone birthday.

“Well it makes me feel wonderful, and I wonder how it happened to me,” Phillips told FOX31.

From West Point to a WWII POW

Few make it as long as he has, and even fewer have a back-story as fascinating.

Phillips attended the University of Denver and then the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1940. He is the military academy’s oldest living graduate.

After that, he was off to the Philippines and World War II. He was taken prisoner of war there in 1942 and was moved around several times as a prisoner. One of those times, he was on a ship that was bombed by U.S. forces. They were unaware that American POWs were on board.

Phillips was finally rescued three years later, but his service to his country wasn’t done. He went to work for the secretary of the Army.

“And we planned for and accomplished successfully the all-volunteer Army that we have today,” Phillips said.

30 years in uniform, medals along the way

He spent 30 years in uniform, and another 10 in the Army chief of staff’s office. And he collected a slew of honors along the way, like the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

Add to that one more honor: FOX31 is naming Phillips the Serving Those Who Serve Hero of the Month for his lifetime of service. Along with a plaque, Phillips receives a $500 Visa gift card from sponsors at Ford and the Leo Hill Charitable Trust.

In case you’re wondering what the secret is to living 105 years, Phillips said the answer isn’t clear-cut.

“Well, when I’m asked that question, how did you live so long, I said I always thought it was the olives in the martinis. But since then I’ve stopped drinking martinis, so I really can’t tell you,” Phillips said.

To nominate a veteran or active-duty service member for our Hero of the Month honors, visit the nomination page.